I was working as a medical receptionist while pregnant with my first baby. One evening an elderly patient spotted my round belly and stopped to talk. Her eyes sparkled as she recalled warm memories.
We shared a bond, this woman and I: her first baby had been a boy too.
Moments passed and her eyes shone deeply; like diamonds being carefully pulled from a dark mine. She reached within to bring up precious words to be shared with me. She and her husband had been equally thrilled and terrified to learn they were to become parents. They planned and prepared. And dreamed. But in the weeks approaching their sweet son’s due date, they were dealt a crushing blow: an infection had developed within her womb, taking the life of her son and threatening her own. She had been discouraged from ever becoming pregnant again.
“And we were so afraid to try again,” she spoke and I felt her heartbreak seep out, nearly 50 years later.
She smiled then and said, “It makes me so happy to see happy new mothers and healthy babies. Things have come such a long way since I was young!” She wished me well and said she would be praying for us. I’ve thought of her many times over the past 9 years. I'd like to thank her for sharing her story with me.
Stories of pregnancy and baby loss have long been regarded as taboo, but this woman was brave as she shared the only memories she had of her son while graciously offering soothing words to my own nerves.
I’ve also wondered how it would feel to tell her that we now share a second bond: we have each lost a son.
I held my second son Lincoln in my arms as he took his last breath.
I will never meet with that kind-hearted woman again in this lifetime. But during the time we spoke she gave a great example of how to encourage an expectant mother, while also honoring her own experience. She did not give unsolicited advice or tired platitudes. She did offer the understanding of someone who had once been where I was in that moment.
And I learned something so very important since that day: to learn the names of the little ones who have passed on. I wish I knew the kind woman's name. I wish I knew her husband's name their son's name, too.
One of the most loving gestures we can offer to bereaved parents is to say the name of their child.
Flowers and cards are thoughtful gifts. But saying a beloved one's name and remembering them is a gift that lasts.
JoEllen and her husband, Jason, reside in Brown County and have been married for 10 years. They are the parents of four boys, three surviving. Their second son passed at 3 months and 1 day due to complications from a critical congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).